Modern Japan - From Our Archives
J T Brown on 'compensation dating' in Tokyo
1995, a Japanese friend and colleague of mine invited me to come
along with him to a club in Tokyos youth mecca, the Shibuya
district. I just had to go, after hearing him describe what this
club was all about.
It was a telekura club (tele from telephone,
kura from kurabu, or club.) The experience
was a revelation, to say the least. Just what is the common interest
shared by such club members, you may ask? Answer: sex
the most part, between married, older Japanese men, and younger, often
teenage, Japanese girls.
For the record, nothing of the sort took place with yours truly. I wanted
to see for myself what my friend described because it was so incredible.
And admittedly I even gave the telephone a few disbelieving tries. But
my morals never got to be tested because the females at the other end
of the line were too surprised and intimidated to be talking with a
foreigner to follow the conversations through to their customary conclusion.
That, being an ensuing rendevous at a hotel for anonymous, paid-for,
You dont hear very much about this face of the Japanese. I have
spied an occasional mention of it in the western press, but for the
majority of outsiders, what I will report herein just doesnt jibe
with the popular image of a conservative and upright Japan. Please read
The eupehmistic term in Japanese for this avocation is "enjo kosai".
I mention this Japanese appellation because it has been adopted without
translation by those who have written on it in English before me. The
standard (and equally euphemistic) English translation is "compensated
dating". Lets be clear, though. What were talking about
amateur whoring. Back in the 1980s, Japanese dating clubs
started popping up, providing a medium for those wishing to enjoin in
enjo kosai to meet. In their earliest incarnation, and one which is
still in healthy existence today, there were the above mentioned telekura
venues. Of late, internet-enabled cellphones have taken over the scene
though. More on this development below.
First, the telekura. It is a physical establishment, usually located
in a centralized commercial district where love hotels (hotels
that rent rooms by the hour for the understood purpose of carnal encounters)
are in close proximity. Invariably, it is the male club members who
actually enter the premises. They present a membership card at the entrance
and pay in advance for the desired number of hours they wish to spend
in one of the private rooms no bigger than a office cubicle- inside
the club. Inside a room is a tv, a vhs player, a box of tissues (porn
videos are free for the borrowing up at the front desk
a telephone. The video watching is just a time-killing expedient. The
men pay good money 3,000 yen per hour (about US $26) when I went
there- for something else. They are waiting for incoming phone calls.
Females on the outside can dial a toll free number to the club, and
the front desk then patches them through to the men inside the little
rooms. From there, its up to the male and female to make
In reality, the overwhelming majority of conversations are about meeting
up for sex. Male and female feel each other out over the phone and decide
after about five or ten minutes of discussion whether or not they they
are going to meet each other. Loss of interest by one party can mean
abrupt and brutal disconnection in mid-sentence- for the other
party. (I speak from humiliating experience). Men that participate in
this little mating game, come in all shapes and sizes; college students,
working men, elderly men -many of them married. The women
tend to be young, though many a housewife up through their mid-thirties
also participate. The preponderance of females, however, are school
girls: high school, and sometimes even junior high school. And the preponderance
of females also happen to demand that aforementioned compensation
in return for the dating. Rates are all over the place,
but most fall in the range of 40,000 to 60,000 yen for a two hour tryst.
Alternative forms of payment can be directly taking a girl to a department
store and paying for the designer shoes or jacket she picks out, or
bringing along such a gift to the time and place of an appointment.
With smartphones now ubiquitous and even in the hands elementary school children, virtual dating clubs have
become all the rage. They cost the male members less money, and both
male and female users have the freedom and convenience of accessing
the service anytime, anywhere. Even in the classroom when the teacher
Internet match-making services exist in many countries. But they dont
quite shape up like this one. Read the following quotations and facts
found in a English language report on virtual dating sites, compiled
and written this year by Japans National Police Agency.
Some typical messages posted in solicitation of sex, (by males):
"Will pay 50,000 yen maximum for Enjo Kosai."
"Awaiting messages from high school girls short in pocket money."
(by females): "Send me a mail if you can meet me Sunday for 30,000
"Buy my virginity. Im an innocent 15 year old."
"I want to try real sex! Im bored with playing with myself.
Somebody with lots of money please make me feel good."
Some facts found in the report:
"93.8% cases of which the solicitation method is known, were initiated
by female child."
"97 percent of cases with child prostitutes now involve cell phone
"83.1% of high school students, 23.1% of junior high own cellular
An immediate question which must spring to mind is, "Just how widespread
is all this? The above report also states that of all Japanese female
high school students, 22% have used dating services and
that 43.2% of those have actually met their date. How truthfully
the girls answered either the first or the second part of the survey
is anybodys guess.
According to another survey taken by the Ministry of Health and Welfare
in 1999, "87.3 percent of girls denied having taken part(in enjo
Thats typical Japanese circumlocution, but Im sure you can
make the conspicuously omitted calculation.
And when I talk to the actual people engaged in this, I get the unmistakable
sense that the police and the surveys are significantly underreporting.
My friend who first exposed me to this scene back in 1995, swears that
over half of all Japanese high school girls in the Tokyo area are "doing
it". He would know. He patronized them all over Tokyo at the pace
of about twice a week until steroid therapy for a health condition of
his rendered him impotent (ha!ha!).
Once, when helping an acquaitance I knew on her homework with a short
story she had to write in English for her college course, I asked her
about enjo kosai. She flabbergasted me. Not only did she confess that
she herself had partaken in it, but she also went on to say, "I
think just about all of my friends, and probably all girls in my generation
have at least tried it." She was a very bright college freshmen
and a good student too.
Of course, both my friend, and this college co-ed, were giving estimations
skewed by their own personal experience. The Health Ministrys
survey which allows us to deduce that roughly 13% of high
school girls have participated in enjo kosai is probably closer to the
truth. But whatever the actual number may be, can you say Big
Trouble in Little Tokyo?
A second question that begs the asking is, what kind of high school
girl (or housewife, or twenties-something woman, for that matter) would
turn to amateur prostitution in a country where everyone has food in
their bellies and ample material toys to play with already? The answer
is as surprising as it is baffling: all kinds.
As you might expect, a lot of delinquent teenage girls from troubled
homes are involved in this. But plenty of girls and women from very
ordinary circumstances and upstanding families have been found doing
this as well. Like the co-ed I knew. Major reasons given to numerous
interviewers and researchers are: because its thrilling, because the
girls seek (older)male affection, because everyone seems to be doing
it, and because the money is easy. *3
Love Hotels in Japan
brow TV discussions and profiles of the problem reached a crescendo
in the late 1990s. But most of that was titillation oriented
tabloid fare, replete with lots of the obligatory video footage
of racy-looking high school girls out and about in the streets,
and interviews with the girls, many of them speaking of having multiple
sexual encounters in a given day with complete strangers, and earning
more on a busy day than their fathers could in a month.
In 1999, The Child Prostitution and Pornography Act was passed.
Contained in this law was a provision that makes paying for sex
with an under 18 year-old a punishable crime. And the Child Welfare
Law, updated that same year, made it the law of the land for it
to be illegal to have sex with an under 18 years old. Until 1999,
it actually remained legal in both metropolitan Tokyo and the prefecture
of Nagano, to have consensual sex with anyone over the age of thirteen.
for my own personal two cents. The belated updating of the criminal
code was not a bad thing. But enforcement of the laws on the books by
Japans finest has always been a joke anyway. Besides, cracking
down on the johns, while a step in the right direction, is like putting
a bandaid on a mere symtom of a larger problem.
Yes, the adult males have to restrain themselves. Thats part of
the job description of being an adult. To exercise judgement
and act responsibly, especially in the presence of minors. When men
act on their fantasies and abet in the delinquency of minors, society
is in decay (Oh Japan? Call your office
That men desire young female bodies though, is not even
an issue. Puritans that say this is sick and depraved
arent helping the problem they are part of it. Healthy males
will lust after young girls and thats a fact. Healthy males in
healthy societies, however, will usually act responsibly and keep their
fantasies as just that, fantasies.
as in Japan, if the streets are flooded with sexy young school girls
who sell their bodies with alacrity, what the hell do we THINK is
going to happen? Chaperoned ballroom dancing?? What I want to know
is, where are the parents in all this? Actually, I do know. Theyre
AWOL. Theyre derelict. Theyre the root of all the evil
What kind of parent could possibly be so self-absorbed, or so weak
and ineffectual that they turn a blind eye to all the exorbitantly
expensive clothing and fashion accessories that their young daughters
start bringing home? To that and the fact that their daughters stay
out until the middle of the night, or dont come home at all?
a seven year-old daughter. As a man, I KNOW how many a male out there
will start undressing her with their eyes before much longer. It makes
me sick with anxiety as a father. Some day, she will be an adult woman
and will make adult decisions for herself.
Until then, it is my job as a father to shepherd her through adolescence,
to protect her, to be a pain in the ass sometimes, to let go of her
only slowly, making sure each step of the way that she is gaining the
wisdom and the self-possession to take care of herself. My parents did
that with me, and with every fiber in my body, Im going to do
it for her, and my son as well.
Japanese youths have been abandoned by their parents. Im not a
religious person, but Japan needs a moral compass and a moral purpose.
Its going down fast. Ill spare you anymore derogatory adjectives
about Japanese parents, and Japanese society. In another essay, I promised
not to Japan-bash. Besides, Im sure that you can think of plenty
of adjectives yourself.
© J T Brown September 19, 2003
(For those of you disbelieving what you have just read, here are some
other reports on the situation, this first one written by a college
student at Japans Chuo University. The writing is in non-native
English, but is very readable and offers a better insight into the mentality
of the girls involved than I can provide.)
For more mainstream coverage of the issue, please see:
rReferences in text:
Academic link re: compensation dating
(Links to all previous articles on Japan by JT Brown can be found at
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